Dr. Margaret N. Perry was the sixth chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin and served from 1986-1997. She was the first woman to serve as an executive officer in the University of Tennessee system and the first at any four-year public institution in the state of Tennessee.
Perry was born April 23, 1940, in Waynesboro. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics at the University of Tennessee, Martin Branch in 1961 and earned a Master of Science degree in nutrition from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, two years later. She later finished her doctorate in nutrition and food science at UT Knoxville in 1965.
Her career in higher education began as a part-time instructor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1963. In 1966, she was appointed to a full-time position as assistant professor of food science and food systems administration. After serving as both assistant and associate dean of the College of Home Economics, Perry was selected as the University of Tennessee dean for graduate studies in 1973. By 1979, she was appointed associate vice president for academic affairs at Tennessee Technological University and continued in that position until 1986, when she accepted the chancellorship of the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Perry led the campus through the economic downturn of the late 1980s and into recovery during the 1990s. She received numerous honors and awards for her state, regional and national work in higher education. Highpoints of her UT Martin tenure include major renovations to the Johnson Engineering and Physical Sciences Building, the Boling University Center and the "new" Paul Meek Library, as well as construction of the children's center. She also oversaw the approval of new degree programs, including a bachelor’s degree in engineering; the surpassing of funding goals for the university system's 21st Century Campaign; and the athletic transition to Division 1 and the Ohio Valley Conference. The UT Martin Pacers became the Skyhawks in 1985 during her time in office.
Perry was known as a “student’s chancellor,” and her involvement of faculty and faculty committees in campus decisions earned her respect both on and off campus. After 11 years as chancellor, a term of service second only to that of Dr. Paul Meek, Perry was awarded the title of chancellor emeritus upon her retirement in 1997.